Passing the baton: Boys and Girls Club hosts Vineyard 20 Miler

As many as 400 runners are expected to run in the M.V. 20-Miler, a benefit for the M.V. Boys and Girls Club, on February 18. — Photo courtesy of MV Boys and Girls Club

Bill Brown began Martha’s Vineyard Multisport 18 years ago as a nonprofit fundraiser for multiple Island service organizations.

Mr. Brown has long been an indefatigable fundraiser for community organizations. He saw road races as a healthy way to raise money and a pleasant alternative to asking Island businesses to write checks. Along the way, M.V. Multisports’ Scoops 5K Run in August and the M.V. 20 Miler in February have become classics for runners in the New England region.

In fact, off-Islanders will comprise more than 90 percent of the 350 to 400 runners who’ll lean over the starting line at 11 am this February 18 in front of the Vineyard Haven ferry dock.

Mr. Brown was off-Island last week but longtime race coordinator Kathy O’Sullivan and new race coordinator Pete Lambos of the Martha’s Vineyard Boys and Girls Club know the story.

Fresh from organizing an Island New Year’s Day fun run, Ms. O’Sullivan said, “We’ve been doing the 20 Miler for 14 years. We gave it to the Boys and Girls Club this year as a fundraiser. We’ll help them with it, of course, and we’ll continue to run the Scoops 5K, but we’re going to regroup a little for a while.”

“Many of the runners use the race as a warm-up for the Boston Marathon,” Mr. Lambos said last week. Registration is $50 per runner with tee shirts, and medals for the first three finishers in a variety of categories, including gender, age, and Island residency. Runners can register by emailing or by calling the Boys and Girls Club at 508-627-3303.

Back to the subject of the race’s history. “This is really Bill Brown’s puppy,” Mr. Lambos said. “He got tired of asking people for money so he started the road race. It’s a fun way to give and the community is involved: businesses, the high school football and track teams, kids, family, and community.

“The Mansion House hotel in Vineyard Haven is a great example. They approached me this year and asked to be a sponsor. Many of the runners use the hotel and restaurant and they wanted to give back.

“The running community is a close-knit group and they know which are quality events,” Mr. Lambos continued. “They know that Joe Schroeder and the high school track team will meet them at the boat, tag their bags, and deliver them to the Oak Bluffs School for the post race events – including a welcomed hot shower, food, music, presentations, and transportation back to the ferry.”

“The runners also know that the water and aid stations along the route will be staffed for the full four hours that the course is open, between 11 am and 3 pm. That’s why they come back year after year,” he said.

The race begins at the Vineyard Haven Steamship Authority terminal and the course continues along the ocean to Edgartown via Oak Bluffs, up the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road to Barnes Road, and finishes at the Oak Bluffs School.

“We have close to 300 registered, and expect 350-400, but we’re ready if 500 show up. It sounds weird to say the Island is a destination in February but runners run in any weather. If they register, they’re coming. And it is fun. Three years ago, a couple staying at The Mansion House got married the morning of the race and ran in “Just-Married” outfits,” Mr. Lambos recalled.

M.V. Multisport Inc. was founded in 1994 by Mr. Brown to raise money for child-related nonprofits. The two races have raised and donated more than $50,000 to local charities, such as the Boys and Girls Club of M.V., which offers year-round programs including after-school programs for more than 500 Island kids between 5 and 18 years of age.

Mr. Lambos concluded, “We encourage people and businesses to get involved as volunteers and sponsors by calling us at 508-627-3303.”